WASHINGTON – A new law now requires the Pentagon to keep track of drug overdoses in the military, something they didn’t do before. This law, part of the annual defense policy bill passed in December, requires the Department of Defense to gather details about overdoses, such as what substances were involved, who was affected, where it happened, and if the person sought mental health treatment before.

The law also says that the military has to have naloxone, a medicine that can reverse opioid overdoses, available on all military installations and in each operational environment. Additionally, the Pentagon has to study if there are other options for managing pain instead of using opioids, and then give suggestions for how military medical facilities can handle this.

These changes are a response to a sharp increase in military deaths caused by fentanyl. In 2016, the Pentagon said that 36% of deadly overdoses involved the synthetic opioid. Five years later, in 2021, 88% of overdoses were connected to fentanyl.

Just to put it in perspective, The Washington Post reported in June that between 2015 and 2022, the Army lost 127 soldiers to fentanyl. This number is more than double the soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan during the same time.